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Posts Tagged ‘dharma’

My essay In Falling is published here, through the Shambhala Publications 35<35 project, personal essays from Buddhist practitioners under the age of 35.

http://www.35u35.com/submissions/in-falling/

PS’s & dedications:

*so so so much gratitude to the lovely Ms. Meredith Arena for loving me through this madness

*loves to my sister Cindy for listening out loud at the EXACT right moment

*congrats to my brother Chris for the courage to share and be himself in the world

*and always to OWL, for saving & enriching my life

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Walking with lightness across the past week, down sweet avenues of promise.

Fall asleep to the heartbreak of harshness, how we diminish and mistrust ourselves so deeply, how we salt our wounds at every turn. How we can love anyone but ourselves.

Awake in the courageousness of my heart, aware that I am good enough to be the mama I’ve become, the mama OWL needs. Aware that in this moment, perhaps that’s all there is, and that is enough. I awake aware that the unwavering presence of goodness that is so hard to touch still resides inside, and I am grateful that the week has illuminated it so vividly. But there is more work to do, always more do to.

And so it is just not time. Not for this.

With breakfast tea in hand, discover this quote, posted by the dear Mrs. Marit:

LOVE: when your energetic heart expands out of your body so far it explodes joy and color all over the world around you in such a way that all your beauty is reflected back at you. then your spirit says ‘Ahhh… that’s the purpose.’*

And so it goes, a cross town train and latitudes, into laughter and forgetting.

Regard all dharmas as dreams. Flip a card. Abandon all hope of fruition. Shuffle. Be grateful to everyone. Shuffle. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself. 


(*from a Mountain Sage Medicine postcard picked up at Mother’s Market Pace in Hood River, OR)

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It is a beautiful Spring day, the kind with magic in the drizzle and almost warm air, and listening to the planes and bird songs on the walk to the co-op with the tired OWL-babes in the pack, I felt like superMama. It’s a strength I wish I could crawl inside of right now, as babes naps through the sun break and I sit here instead of cleaning. I suspect though, that it is indeed that strength that allows me to write through this tangle instead of shutting down among the brooms and mops.

Last Friday, I looked different. Like a small worry that had grown too big for itself lifted and dissolved. But the other night I noticed that it is back, and I hardly recognize myself again. The lines in my face, the shape of my cheeks, the definition of my torso and soft curve of my belly. I tried to trace all my lines, follow the turns, the rise and fall of breath inside my chest. I tried to examine the expressions, the places that no one ever sees, so that someone bears witness to all these changes, the shifts in the gravity of love and birth and loss. But I don’t know if I can, if I have the courage to study and stay, to inhabit the compassion I need. Stand like mountain, give like water, shine like the sun.

I find myself dwelling in that place of small mind, the one where I can draw a straight line through all my mistakes and fuck ups to this exact moment and say – “Aha! Of course I am here. It all makes sense and there is no way through or out of this mess!” Every little thing is attached to the storyline of never good enough, never enough. And I mean really, that well appears quite limitless.

The problem is that I cannot start where I am, at this moment in time, from this place. Because all those years of waiting – waiting for things to be okay so that they could get great – are heavy and big and I can’t figure out how or where to set them down. Because all those years of self-restricted forward motion – half steps and big slides back – are like a dam that will not hold, even though small mind is scrambling like mad to plug the holes with guilt and inadequacy and fear. But my heart also knows that the price of waiting, for me, has been non-action, never doing, and not necessarily better or wiser decisions. I’ve learned to let go of (some) outcomes, and trust that the path will provide the opportunities. But can I also let go of the path I see, the path for which I plunged myself into the murky depths of mental illness and worked my ass off to reach?

And didn’t I already start where I was when I stepped out of my skin and onto a cushion in a room full of strangers and committed to wake up, to feel and be present? The thing that’s a bitch, I see now, is that the whole point is that we start we are over and over again. OVER AND OVER. AGAIN. Small mind feels duped. And vast mind is…. on vacation? Hallucinating topographic maps and listening to birds?

I’ll write and clean and sit and wait for its return.

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I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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(mountain-eagle-warrior-flying)
(into 2011)

I have not been writing.

It is December, and I think something like this happens every time this year. There is a still quiet, a silent revolution of words and ideas rumbling around with no exit, and no desire to go anywhere. I write beautiful things in my head then quickly scribble flattened words after hours of procrastination and fall asleep.

My mind turns over this year, my first year, and I see it was characterized by loss and the depth of my experience of what was lost. How I leaned in to its sharpness, the cold metallic feel of its reality, the emptiness of bed and home and speech. How I sat and sat and sat again in practice, letting the tears and aches have their place and days.

My mind wanders over the people who filled this time of darkness with the most delicious richness and texture – OWL’s warm nuzzle under my arm and his sweet sing-songs from the back seat of the car, the warmth of mittens knitted by a new mama’s hands and the cooing and laughter of her foxy little babes as we talk-cook-sit-listen, tree-shaded walks through rabbit holes with wounded animals and talks and coffees with the children running ahead or lagging behind, the rise and fall of a lover’s body next to mine in sleep, the soft coat of the cat against my bare leg, acoustic guitars melodically joining teenage voices and hand-crafted gift tags, the growing bellies of mamas-to-be, falling asleep on a boat in the May heat of Florida and hot spring swims, the ballet and dinner, late night phone calls full of tears and laughs and love….

The freeze up of loss and loneliness is not so solid after all. The lake is full of the cracks and fissures of a continuing life, a current below the surface. A slow and steady breeze winding through the constriction picks up speed.

Open-eyed in yoga, I move through mountain to eagle to warrior 3 to standing split with my hands wrapped around my ankle, finger tips gently tap and sweep the floor with grace to regain balance as I laugh out loud. My heart  fills with green grass and a sky painted golden and pink by the rising sun, a light blue sweater tossed off to the side. A lotus blooms in the mud as the sun warms my face and arm through the southern windows. I see and feel and know the openness of the coming year, and greet that mystery with curiosity. With a smile that knows the transformative power of the eagle, and that starting fresh is not the same as starting from scratch.

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The present was the first to go, an abrupt drop off the face of the earth as I thrashed in the chaos of new motherhood and a husband who stopped sleeping in the house and drove deep into every historic insecurity I held with words so sharp they can still sting.

I look out over my past, and I can barely see myself in it. All my thoughts and experiences and successes and growth and failures and risks were just erased, as if they don’t get to come with me and be a part of who I am right now, in this very moment.

And now, I see the future that I always thought was just around the corner slip away too. I loose myself again as I see it played out with other players. I watch my son in someone else’s life, recognize his mannerisms and moves, and wonder what I can give him. Because when I try to visualize my future, I can’t see anything. I held on and out for this future that will never happen, no matter how many corners I turn. It never was and now it’s gone for good. Another thing to let go.

The present.
The past.
And the future too.

Tears fall all through yoga as I twist and flow, release from my hips and my low belly. A feeling of sadness and mourning without a story. Images come and go, like clouds through my mind, dissipating as quickly as they appear. Release without blame, without guilt, without the storyline. Tears all through dharma class as I wonder if I have the strength to make it, to be fearless and wise, to relate deeply, to find compassion and joy.

Today I stand on the verge of tremendous change, but I don’t know which direction to turn and explore. A new curiosity arises as I wonder where the path, the continuation that builds the future moment by moment, is leading. It’s a passive curiosity, but for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in my life.

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The days are roaring by.  The rain feels like it’s setting in for its seasonal stay, with bursts of afternoon sun allowing for barefoot puddle splashing and early evening strolls to the bookstore.

There was a moment late this morning where the rain held a rich presence.  Laying down shaped like a C snuggling around OWL’s sleep resistance, listening to two new shastris, the rain making the most intense sound.  Like beads falling from the sky in perfect formation.  Intentional.  Life giving.  Like auditory oxygen.  Thirty seconds of pure sound where there was nothing separating me from the rain from the empty zabuton from OWL’s wiggling torso from the cherry trees and their yellowing tooth-tinged leaves from the acres of spider web from the sleepiness that was descending from friends & strangers from the chickens we visited on our walk to the morning’s festivities….  A moment of sheer awake.  OWL’s resistance wins as he crawls his way from my arms and I sit up to my sister’s tears saying how much she misses her mother.  Just felt her in the rain.  It is that kind of rain. Taking my first oath, with OWL’s left foot plunged down my shirt as I read my commitments aloud, and the rain, alive and pregnant, dancing around us all and dissolving the boundaries.  A glimpse of life without a top.

And then there was sun.  Beautiful and glowing and high.  69-degree sun with a sky speckled in white clouds.  OWL splashing barefoot & pants free in the patio puddles as we eat and drink champagne.  He nibbles bites of beets & quinoa & pears & bread & cheese between the puddles and the rocks, between my lap and running free.  He climbs up his first step on his own two feet and still crawls down backwards.  He walks in the long grass, imitates passing airplanes, visits the trees and their raised mossy roots.  And, when it was time to go, he signs “socks” as I slip his warm stained feet into the striped cotton.  We walk an urban trail through an alley restored with wood chips and tall native vegetation until we come across a laboring cat.  He smiles & giggles & shrieks meows.  We drink homemade lemonade from a styrofoam cup purchased for $1 from a corner stand staffed by 2 very serious little girls, a small river flowing from the corner of his lips to the folds of his neck. Walking up to the front steps of our apartment under the glow of sun, a soft, full and steady rain drizzles down.  Quiet like a breeze.  OWL toddles the incline, hands on his head, growling in delight at the sensation.  The cat, left outside all morning, is not so delighted at OWL’s slow pace in climbing the hill, crawling each step with the effort of a long day with little sleep and a wet diaper.

Inside, I watch him devour book after book after book, pulling each one off his shelf in the living room. Toting more out from his walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom. Delivering, with such clarity, Dr. Seuss’ ABC The Amazing Alphabet Book to the kitchen where I am preparing his afternoon snack.  We sit on the floor.  I read this book aloud for the 23rd time today (and not the last), and bribe him into the highchair by placing it on his tray with two slices of avocado.  I turn to finish grating the cheese, and by the time I’m sprinkling it on the corn tortilla in the skillet, he is signing (new since yesterday) and saying (new new at the moment) “more” and staring down at an empty plate.

During dinner I scratch down a laundry list of things OWL did today.  New things and funny things and heartwarming things.  Those lines, in all the beauty and love and living they entail, also show a loneliness.  It is hard to bear sole witness to so much. Heartbreaking.  I call the ex-husband to arrange tomorrow’s exchange.  To report the new and share information from OWL’s doctor.  He answers on the first ring.  I hear a familiar ache in his voice.  A deep sadness.  A sadness that I want to wrap myself around like a warm blanket.  Like a safety net.  Like the same way I want to turn my head and ask, “Did you just see that?”  and catch one of OWL’s new tricks at the same time, bear joint witness in the same room.  The changing of the seasons, he says.

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